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Paris Travel Tips 2023
From Getting Around to Getting Your Bags
Updated on: April 2023
Written by: Kelly Koeppel
Should I Go to Paris Now?
Paris is always a good idea, but it is worth considering that the city is getting ready for the 2024 Olympics. While Paris is a beautiful and romantic city, it’s good to know the realities of what is happening right now so that you can plan for any surprises.
Many streets and buildings are getting a facelift and no matter where you stay you’re likely to encounter construction. As I write this there is a jackhammer outside of my window that has been running nonstop all morning, except for a lunch break. It’s a good idea to bring some noise-canceling headphones or a noise-canceling tv-listening device if you plan to stay in an area where there may be construction. Typically construction is only during the daytime work hours, but if you’re trying to work or if the noise bothers you then it’s good to have a backup plan.
Many of the historical buildings are also getting some work done, so what you are likely to see is a visual representation of the facade printed onto a scrim and stretched across the front of the building. It’s definitely better than scaffolding, but if you’re an architectural purist then you may be disappointed. Notre Dame Cathedral is still undergoing restoration from the fire in 2019, but it is scheduled to re-open in time for the 2024 Olympics. Overall, you’ll likely find that most of the museums, chateaus, and cathedrals that you want to visit will be open.
Social disruptions are still happening, sometimes without notice, and some are planned. France 24 is an English-language newspaper that will publish the latest news and updates. It’s a great resource to keep handy while you’re in Paris. Depending on the scope and scale, the protest activity can have a significant impact on your plans or no impact at all. It’s really hard to anticipate. I went out one night and while I was waiting for the Metro train, the announcer let us know that there were spontaneous demonstrations on another train line that would cause the train to be delayed for over an hour. Surprise! All you can do is stay flexible.
Overall, the impacts of the social disruptions and construction are minimal and you may not even experience them at all, so don’t let this discourage you from making the trip.
Bring a Power Strip with USB Ports
Rather than bringing a bunch of outlet converters, I typically will bring one or two, and then a power strip. This makes life so much easier, and it can create a ‘charging station’ within your hotel or Airbnb that will make it easy to figure out where you left your phone (hint-check the power strip, it’s probably plugged in there). Every time I travel and pull out the power strip, people are blown away because they never thought of this. It’s easy – just pack it in your luggage and now you have a ton of charging options that don’t require converters.
Air Tags or Tiles
If you’re checking bags and not dropping in an Apple AirTag or Tile, you are just asking for a headache. Not only does this help you track your luggage, but it will also give you leverage when working with the airlines to locate and recover your bags.
I recommend taking a screenshot each day that your bag shows it is not with you. This will allow you to document its location by date and will help you when you need to justify your claims for purchases made while you weren’t with your bag.
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Speaking of headaches…for most of us over a certain age, we know that Advil or Tylenol can be the difference between having fun or being laid up on the couch. When visiting Paris, you are likely to do a lot of walking – and you should! It’s a beautiful city to stroll through and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll rack up those steps on your fitness tracker. But, your body doesn’t always agree with this sudden influx of activity. Here comes Advil to save the day (or the trip)!
In France, Advil is typically sold in pharmacies, behind the counter – similar to how some antihistamines are sold in the US. But don’t go looking for this in the grocery store, you won’t find it there. The dosage is usually higher in Europe. American Advil tends to be 200-250mg per single tablet, while in Europe it may be 400mg per tablet. So be sure to check the packaging to make sure you’re taking the correct amount.
I also bring a small first aid kit with me when I travel. Mine has all of the basics; scissors, bandaids, and even Q-tips. Q-tips come in handy for those who wear hearing aids and need to dry their ears before inserting them. And when you’re on the go in Paris, you don’t want to sit around waiting for your ears to air-dry!
Downtime – Television & Streaming
If you plan to stay in an Airbnb it may list a TV as an amenity. Does it have a tv – probably yes. Does it work – probably not. I have spent many months in France in different Airbnbs and they all listed a TV and none have ever worked. I suspect this is a service that most hosts don’t want to pay for.
If television is something that is important to you, consider bringing an iPad or laptop with a streaming service. Some streaming services may not be offered outside of the United States. One way to work around this is to use a VPN. I use Nord VPN, it’s easy to download and run on a laptop, phone, or iPad. In the most simple explanation, a VPN hides your location. Simply launch the VPN when you’re in France and set your location to the United States. Once this is running, it will appear as if you are in the USA and your streaming service should work.
Make sure you launch your VPN before you launch your browser or streaming service. You may also need to occasionally pause your VPN to access some websites. It’s not often, but I do encounter this from time to time. If you are trying to load a site and get an ‘Access Denied’ page, try pausing the VPN and then reloading the page. Nine out of ten times this will solve the issue.
Another little tip to make your downtime more enjoyable in the absence of TV is to bring a small Bluetooth speaker. I find I use this all the time; when I’m getting ready, ending the day, cleaning the apartment, and more. It’s a great way to bring a little creature comfort from home.
If you’re planning to visit Paris but you don’t speak French, that’s ok. It’s always good to know a little of the language, but many people will recognize that you don’t speak the language and will do their best to help you. Many restaurants will offer menus in English, and even the Metro will make announcements in English.
In the case where you simply can’t bridge the language barrier, I recommend downloading the Google Translate app. I like the camera feature, simply hold your camera over whatever you’re trying to read and it will translate for you directly. You can take a picture as well, but it’s not required.
For those with vision impairment, or if you just left your readers at home, then the Magnifier app is your savior. Again, this app uses the camera and turns it into a magnifying glass. Just hold it over what you’re trying to read, and voila!
While Google Maps is a great tool for finding your way around, I prefer the Citymapper app. Citymapper allows you to put in your destination and then it will tell you all of the options for how to get there- walk, bus, train, bike, scooter. It shows how long it will take, what the cost will be, and even the best train car on the Metro line to sit in. Like Google Maps, it also has live navigation so you can quickly see whether or not you’re heading in the right direction.
One Final Thought
Paris is an amazing city full of rich cultural history and incredible food. Even with the traffic and construction and social disruptions, you’re still in for an amazing adventure. You just have to go into the adventure with a realistic view of what is happening in Paris right now. If you stay flexible with your plans, you’re likely to have a great time! It’s never been easier or more fun to travel. From apps to AirTags, you have so much control over your experience. With just a little planning you can have an amazing adventure.